Public relations is too expensive. There's no way I could afford that on a small business budget. Only major brands can pay for that.
It's easy to fall under the impression that landing major media features or large-scale podcast interviews come with a hefty price tag. Major corporations hire global public relations agencies on a $25,000 monthly retainer. Brands shell out $7,500 for an annual subscription to a media database. “PR is too expensive” is an easy assumption to make.
Luckily, that assumption is only somewhat true. Public relations is expensive. But it doesn't mean you have to throw thousands of dollars a month at earned media coverage. PR is a process based on relationships, research, creativity, and strategy. You can invest money in outsourcing that process. Or you can invest time into managing it yourself.
So whether you're on a limited budget or exploring how public relations can fit into your brand, investing time into a do-it-yourself approach can be much more realistic. Here are four free PR tools you can start using right now:
Media Leads: Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
When you first think about the term “public relations,” it might be a dreamy vision of sitting down to interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Or teaming up with top fashion influencers to promote your newest product across Instagram. Earning media coverage is often at the top of the wishlist whenever we talk to a potential client about building media relations strategies into her business or organization.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free digest of media opportunities delivered to your inbox three times a day. The service curates requests from reporters and journalists who are on the hunt for expert resources. It's still one of my favorites tools for uncovering unique media opportunities, seasonal gift guide requests, and up and coming freelance writers.
Like most media outreach, finding success with HARO opportunities relies on timely and relevant pitches. Most requests have a deadline, along with specific guidelines and criteria attached. You can sign up for free access to the resource through HARO's website.
News Monitoring: TalkWalker Alerts
When you start playing PR strategist, you might be surprised how much more time you spend listening—listening to what is said about your brand and competitors, as well as the conversations trending in your industry, community, and the world at large. Was your organization named in a recent news article? Did a competitor launch a new community initiative? Is there a critical conversation trending in your industry?
These are the sort of questions a savvy communications professional wants to answer. But when you don't have hours a day to spend connected to your news apps, a digital alert system like TalkWalker comes in handy. Google also offers free keyword alerts. The technology allows you to create email alerts for specific terms or keywords as they appear in news outlets, blogs, and forums across the web. While these alerts are foolproof, they can help you stay in the loop about important media happenings.
Media Research: Hunter.io
Identifying a relevant writer is an important step in the media outreach process. But before hitting send on the perfect pitch, you need a valid email address…which can sometimes be harder than expected. While incredibly useful, databases like Cision and Meltwater can be costly and unrealistic for a small business budget.
A DIY approach means taking time to research. Sometimes, apparent resources—such as a writer's about page, professional website, or social media channels—don't turn up the information you need. Tools like Hunter.io offer a limited, but free searchable database of business contact information. While a specific contact's email address might not be listed, you can identify a publication's email format to make an educated guess.
Newsworthy Writing: Headline Analyzer
Can you imagine getting 300 emails a day from people demanding your attention? It's a real reality for mainstream writers and reporters. A perfectly tailored story idea might go unseen thanks to a lackluster subject line amid inbox clutter.
We love CoSchedule's free headline analyzer for testing titles. The tool rates your email subject line, blog post title, or press release headline—analyzing characteristics such as measures word count and sentiment. Not only do these suggestions perform well in an inbox, but the tool can also help you optimize your headlines for your website and other digital platforms.
Looking for other tools to strengthen your headline writing? TitleCase and Hemingway App are two additional powerful (and free!) tools for polishing your pitch emails before hitting “send.”
Finding Your Go-to Free PR Tools
While building out your own PR toolkit might mean piecemealing together various tools and resources, it can be a cost-effective way to share your brand's story through earned media.
What free PR tools you would add to this list? Join in the conversation and share your favorite resources for running a budget-friendly PR program.